Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab spend their time printing swarms of modular robots, making smartphones fly, designing the next generation of bio-inspired technologies, and advancing the state of the art in perception and machine learning. A team of GRASP faculty is also behind the six-course Robotics Specialization on Coursera, which teaches learners how robots sense the world and helps prepare learners for careers in robotics and engineering.
In this Q&A, we’re talking with Professor Kumar, lead instructor for the Aerial Robotics course, about why robotics is important, how robots are saving lives, and why you should study robotics.
Why is it important to learn about robotics?
Expertise in robotics is a skill that grows more valuable every day, as autonomous machines become familiar companions in factories, workspaces, and homes. Robotics may seem intimidating at first, but that is what the Robotics Specialization is for – it’s designed to to prepare anyone with an avid interest and a basic early college math background for a career in this rapidly growing field.
How are roboticists changing the world?
High-tech robots are changing the way we respond to global challenges. Robots are helping us quickly locate disaster victims in dangerous landscapes, fight epidemics at the source instead of one patient at a time, and haul objects 2,000 times their own weight.
These machines would be nothing without the roboticists who create and program them. A roboticist must be able to gauge a number of parameters for the function they want the robot to complete – familiarity with vision, perception, control systems, automation and machine learning are essential. These characteristics are the cornerstone of the GRASP Lab’s research and the focus areas of the Robotics Specialization.
What characteristics of robotics does this specialization focus on?
The specialization is designed to introduce you to fundamental concepts in robotics such as how to make a robot walk, run and fly. Throughout the specialization you will be exposed to real world examples, taught by a diverse group of experts in the field. You will learn how to program a robot to sense and navigate the environment, while also learning how robots react and plan for uncertainties. At the end of the specialization, you will have a chance to build and program your own mobile robot to perform a variety of tasks.
What characteristics of robotics does your course (Aerial Robotics, the first course in the Robotics Specialization) focus on?
Aerial Robotics emphasizes the “three S’s” that determine the effectiveness of most aerial robots: size, speed and smarts. A small, fast flying robot that can find its way through a complex, cluttered environment can help emergency personnel as they respond to disasters. For example, imagine a team of robots entering a partially collapsed building or a damaged nuclear plant, rapidly acquiring information and helping rescue personnel make critical decisions even before they arrive at the site, enabling the team to save lives.
How does the Robotics Specialization prepare learners for careers in this field?
The Specialization is designed to help prepare you for a career in robotics, engineering, or another industry that utilizes robotics technology. After successfully completing the 5 courses, you’ll understand how robots sense and reason about the world they live, how they plan three dimensional movements in a dynamic environment and how they fly or run while adapting to uncertainties. You will be able to program a robot’s mobility and flight – and in the Capstone Project, you’ll implement a solution for a real-world problem using either a simulation or a real robot that you build yourself.
Enroll in the next session of the Robotics Specialization – starting Monday, July 4.